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State v. Hammond

Decided: July 16, 1971.


Pascoe, J.c.c.


This is an appeal on a record established in the Collingswood Municipal Court pursuant to R. 3:23-1 et seq. Defendant Hammond was convicted of two offenses: misstatement of fact in an application for registration of a motor vehicle, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-37, and application for a registration certificate during suspension, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-34.

I find as fact that the defendant was the owner-operator of a vehicle travelling east on Route 73 in Berlin, N.J., on March 13, 1971. Trooper Stowal stopped him pursuant to a routine motor vehicle check. The trooper requested that defendant produce his driver's license and vehicle registration certificate. He produced a New Jersey registration certificate with registration number SKS-300. This certificate had an issue date of November 1970 and an expiration date of July 1971. Defendant also produced a North Carolina driver's license which had an issue date of November 1970. The trooper inquired whether defendant had any New Jersey motor vehicle violations and was told he had received a summons for a traffic accident in New Jersey in September 1969 but could not remember the disposition of the matter. The trooper then asked defendant to accompany him inside the Berlin barracks in order to await a confirmation of the defendant's license status in this State. The trooper received information that defendant was involved in an accident in July 1968 and that his driver's license and registration had been revoked in December 1968 for a violation of the Security Responsibility Law, N.J.S.A. 39:6-23 et seq. Defendant's driver's license had also been suspended

three times thereafter. The certified abstract of defendant's driving record is marked S-2 in evidence.

Exhibit S-3, defendant's application for a vehicle registration certificate, contains the following question: "Is your registration certificate now revoked or suspended in any state?" To this defendant placed an "X" under "No." The submission of this application resulted in the issuance of defendant's registration certificate in November 1970 by the Motor Vehicle Agency in Collingswood, in which municipality the complaints herein were filed.

It is noted by this court that there is nothing in the transcript to indicate that defendant was given notice of the suspension of his license and registration in 1968. As to the three subsequent suspensions, the orders of suspension dated February 10, 1969, May 13, 1970 and June 29, 1970 were returned undelivered by postal authorities. It is further noted that Trooper Stowal explained that it had been his experience that if a licensee did not receive notice that his license and registration had been revoked, this failure to receive notice would be noted on the back of the driving record abstract. No such entry was found.

The trooper indicated that after talking to defendant he got the impression that defendant knew he was on the revoked list. However, the inquiry here is whether as a matter of law, defendant's knowledge of revocation of registration is a material element of the respective offenses, assuming he was without knowledge.

Defendant contends that the suspension of his driver's license and registration was ineffective since he failed to receive notice thereof. He contends that violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-34 and N.J.S.A. 39:3-37 requires guilty knowledge. Defendant claims he applied for a registration certificate while on the revoked list and made a misstatement of fact on his application for this registration without knowledge of the suspensions. He therefore submits that the convictions under these statutes should be reversed because there was a lack of scienter on his part.

These facts can be distinguished from State v. Wenoff , 102 N.J. Super. 370 (Cty. Ct. 1968). There defendant had his license revoked for driving while his license was revoked, in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-40. Several notices of suspension had been mailed to the defendant but not received. However, the court held that actual receipt of notice was not a prerequisite in a revocation proceeding. It did, however, acknowledge that the essential notice requirement was met by the actual notice defendant received on the traffic summons as to the possible revocation of his driving privileges. The notice and warning provide:

For failure to appear in response to this summons or to pay the prescribed fine and costs, a warrant may be issued for your arrest and your driving privileges may be revoked.

In other words, the court held that the due process requirements were satisfied by the "notice" provisions on the traffic summons. However, the "notice" provisions on the summons do not warn against the possible revocation of an operator's registration certificate. ...

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